There’s no particular order to this rundown, nor are we implying that these are the ‘greatest’ under-rated albums (that’s something you can tell about in the comments box, or let us know if you’d like to see more of them). Just a celebratory look at five albums that – for various reasons – never quite received the acclaim they deserved …
5. ‘Handcream For A Generation’ – Cornershop (2002)
People are primarily familiar with Cornershop thanks to the Fatboy Slim remix of ‘Brimful Of Asha’, which can still regularly be heard clogging up the background of TV commercials. This 2002 release saw them expand on their sound over a selection of irrestible pop hooks – such as ‘Lessons Learned From Rocky I to Rocky III’ – and it really, really should be more well known.
Well, it’s that time of the week when we usually select a member of the BAMM.tv Team to choose their favorite tunes of the moment … but, as we’ve installed the amazing San Francisco three-piece Geographer as our Featured Artist, we’ve handed the feature over to them. There’s just one slight twist – all their faves are from the BAMM.tv archive …
‘Better Way’ – The Soft White Sixties
These badasses play MUSIC, and they play it well and they play it raw. You get that “I’m listening to something good” feeling in your guts when you watch this.
A lot of you seemed to like yesterday’s whistlestop tour through ten of the craziest album covers in history – so we’ve decided to crack open the dusty archives of pop-culture and dig out some more. Extra weirdo points if you happen to own any of these bad boys …
10. Don And Seymour
Taken in happier times, before Seymour’s drug problem spiralled out of control.
9. Anna Russell – ‘In Darkest Africa’
Pretty much the most offensive (unintentionally or otherwise) sleeve cover of all time? If ever the KKK had a party record, we’re betting its this.
8. Ira North – ‘If I Were A Woman’
“… I’d stop whining about how painful pregnancy is, and get back in the kitchen. At least that’s what I told my wife, before she left me.” (breaks down into tears)
7. Erik and Beverley Massagee – ‘Amen’
God, what is it with creepy plastic puppets on abstract album covers? Hasn’t Cher got that market covered? Huh, guys? Amirite? Amirite?
6. Millie Jackson – ‘Back To The S**t!’
I’ll level with you, Millie – that’s just horrible.
5. The Moody Blues – ‘In Search Of The Lost Chord’
“What? No, I don’t think there’s LSD in my studio’s water supply. Now, do you want my cover artwork or not?”
4. Paddy Roberts – ‘Songs For Gay Dogs’
“What? Sorry, Rex, no, I just assumed you were …. what? Well, you just have that look about you. Look, if you don’t like it, I kept the receipt.”
3. Millie Jackson – ‘ESP’
For god’s sake, Millie, another one?
2. Swamp Dogg – ‘Rat On’
In the near future, when the world has been irradiated in a nuclear apocalypse and rats have mutated into giant beasts, this will actually be something of an everyday scene.
In an age where physical music formats are on the decline, the album cover just isn’t as important as it used to be. Sure, it’s a nice bonus if the digital image on your device is a pretty one, but these days the music is generally left to speak for itself.
This wasn’t the case in years gone by, however. An eye-catching cover could make or break a record – and this necessity created some undeniable classics. Pop culture is all the richer for the masterpieces that adorned Sgt Peppers, Electric Ladyland, The Queen Is Dead, Repeater, OK Computer and so on. But what about those more … ahem … ‘unique’ specimens? Let’s take a look at the 10 craziest albums covers in history …
10. ‘Mr Love Pants’ – Ian Dury And The Blockheads
Hey, don’t mind me, I’m just a dog hanging out on a beach. In my pants.
9. ‘Ringo The 4th’ – Ringo Starr
Ringo tries to escape the shadow of The Beatles by threatening everyone with a big sword and kidnapping ladies.
8. ‘Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday’ – John Bult
Implication is everything, John.
7. ‘My Beauty’ – Kevin Rowland
Erm … yeah, I’m just trying something out, y’know?
6. ‘The Miracle’ – Queen
OH GOD IT’S A DEMON KILL IT KILL IT
5. ‘Yesterday And Today’ – The Beatles
The loveable mop-tops decide to … well, do whatever the hell this is.
4. ‘On Through The Night ‘ – Def Leppard
For God’s sake, Harold, another wrong turn! Just look where the Earth is now!
3. ‘Windowlicker’ – Aphex Twin
Yeah, so it’s technically an EP, but it’s so crazy we had to include it.
2. ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ – Freddie Gage
Hey, Freddie! It’s party time! Erm … Freddie? Freddie …?
1. ‘Keep The Fire’ – Kenny Loggins
“Look, I’ve come all the way past the pyramid, the meteors and the rainbow to get here, so you’d damn well better take it, okay?”
Another week, another playlist from one of our all-knowing BAMM Team (that’s ‘all-knowing’ in terms of music, by the way … none of us are too hot on quantum theory). This time around, we find out what Editorial Director Christopher Davies is listening to right now …
1. “Hold On, Hold On” (Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, 2006) – Neko Case
One of the many talents behind The New Pornographers, Neko Case effortlessly transposes the melodic pop strains of that particular supergroup into her solo work. Nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking – just great songwriting.
2. “Green Shirt” (Armed Forces, 1979) – Elvis Costello
For a good decade or so, Costello was quite literally at the top of this whole ‘music’ game. He has too many classic tunes to mention, but this one is often overlooked, so I’m going to stick it here. It’s just great: instantly hummable yet undercut with a weird simmering menace (‘you can please yourself, but somebody’s gonna get it ..’)
3. “Shake This” (Street Hop, 2009) – Royce Da 5’9
This is, quite simply, awesome.
4. “Ladybird” – (Nancy & Lee, 1968) – Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood
Hazlewood and Sinatra are maybe one of the best male-female double acts in history. There are lots of great moments on their 1968 album ‘Nancy & Lee’ (everyone knows ‘Some Velvet Morning’ … or at least they should do) but ‘Ladybird’ is a personal favorite.
5. “Careful” (The Warning, 2006) – Hot Chip
Gotta love these techno-geek ravers and their sense of undying fun and experimentation. ‘Careful’ is, in my humble opinion, one of the best opening tracks to any album EVER …
So you’re in an up-and-coming new band. How do you go about making the transition from small, intimate gigs (perhaps playing to a circle of friends) to expanding your horizons? In the latest of our bite-size ‘How To’ vids, BAMM.tv’s Phil Lang offers up a couple of hints and tips about embarking on a ‘mini tour’.
Working alongside and for musicians can be one of the most satisfying creative experiences in the business – provided you get it right. Otherwise … well, otherwise it’s the stuff of horror stories and painful anecdotes in future ‘tell-all’ biographies (assuming your band hit the big time).
One of the most important factors of studio production involves getting the sound levels juuuuuuust right. In today’s BAMM.tv ‘How To’ vid, our very own Sonia sets out exactly how to do that – with a little help from some other BAMM friends too.
Any musicians out there who regularly frequent the studio environment will know one thing: cables get EVERYWHERE. So – what’s the best way to deal with them? In the second of our fast, fresh and funny ‘How To’ vids, we issue BAMM.tv’s very own Jerad the task of cable wrapping. How does he cope? Well – you’ll just have to watch the above video to find out, won’t you?
If BAMM.tv’s Jonathan hates one thing – apart from people touching his meticulously-crafted hair – it’s bad concert etiquette. That’s why he chose to tackle the subject in the first of our bite-size BAMM.tv ‘How To’ videos: a selection of funny and fresh guides to the dos and don’ts of various elements of the music industry.
We’ll be putting one of these bad boys online every day this week, so stay tuned to watch other members of the BAMM.tv crew impart their wisdom. And – in the case of Jerad – throw some expensive cables into a fan. But more of that later. Check out Jonathan’s video above.
There are major shifts waiting to happen this year in how we consume music. 2013 is likely to see the expansion of trends from last year – the shift towards streaming, the rise of social television, and increasing use of video content online.
But the impact of all of these factors means the shape of the digital music landscape will dramatically change before the year is out. Will personal music collections be entirely displaced by portable libraries? Will crowd-funding become a standard procedure for tours? We consider these possibilities and more in a roundup of this year’s expected trends.
Ownership versus accessibility
This year sees big developments in the streaming subscription market with the arrival of Google, Microsoft and Apple’s new loan services. They are all keen to take on the growing might of Spotify, which has so far managed to take the largest share of the market via its partnership with Facebook. Owning music could become secondary to portability and accessibility across multiple devices. Arguably, ownership might even be seen as a burden given syncing and copyright issues.
What does this mean for musicians, given the negligible rates given by streaming services? Last year, Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 highlighted how 680,462 plays of his record ‘Tugboat’ (above) garnered only a soul-destroying $9.99. It’s unlikely the margins will grow – though some might argue a bigger market with more competitors will create more revenue for everyone. However, it could also make it harder for musicians to claim fees as companies compete to keep subscription charges low. Pandora is currently contesting the fee paid out to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for digital radio plays of artists. It is likely only the biggest artists will benefit from keeping their music away from streaming services – as shown by the high sales enjoyed by Adele and Coldplay.
It’ll be interesting to see how many major musicians make their music available and the correlation between sales and their music’s availability on the streaming services. Either way, the year will mark the decisive break with the ownership culture as the biggest technology creators become effectively lending libraries of content.
The first ever fully-sponsored album?
Here on BAMM we’ve previously discussed the increasingly close relationship between brands and bands. Even the most credible of musicians have lent themselves to one-off projects by companies. One of the weirdest collaborations this year has been ‘Gatwick: The Departure Lounge Sessions’, which featured a 30-minute track by Benga which corresponded to the 30-minute journey between Gatwick and London Victoria.
Could we see an extension of that trend so that musicians end up writing whole entire albums themed or inspired by brands? What’s certain is that it’s not just the obvious suspects who would be up for doing product placement. At the moment, it may be musicians who are getting the best end of the deal. Working with brands guarantees a payout at a time when sales are so low. Brands are also stepping in to nurture and develop musicians from the outset, creating long-term relationships in order to tap into younger audiences. Conversely, consumers may take to personalising brands in ways that make image control near-obsolete. Given the power of social media and Facebook, even the coolest brands may have to roll with the punches.
The return of MySpace
MySpace’s acknowledged strengths were always its music sharing and DIY aspects. For many bands, trying to cut out the noise of Facebook activity to get a few ‘likes’ is too difficult. New MySpace has had mixed reviews but its music functionality is better than ever. The new site (as trailed below) is clearly aimed at a younger ‘creative’ demographic – which is ideal for bands who want to take a hands-on approach to their promotion.
Focusing on sound
The rise of the visual is unquestionable – we have ever bigger screens on all our devices to accommodate more video content and visual information. But sound-only platforms have a role to play. Soundcloud has enjoyed its biggest year yet with more exclusives and streaming from performers like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. One of the major appeals for musicians is the convenience of uploading a track, without the faff of a big launch or shoot. Given low marketing budgets, more musicians could start using sound-only platforms to reach out directly to fans and reward them with special cuts and additional work.
More ethical models
The fightback has begun already. BAMM leads on the way on this trend, giving artists a fair rate for their tracks. Some sites such as Bandcamp are giving bands the chance to sell their music and merchandise directly to fans, taking a much smaller cut of the proceeds than sites such as iTunes.
Digital radio and personalised radio
BAMM was in on this early with its Open Thread radio. The internet has breathed new life into the radio medium. The trend will explode in 2013 with the development of multiple streams, podcasts, and local digital radio stations redefining the relationship between the global and the local. Radio is also relatively low-tech, opening it up to more DIY producers and labels. Personalised radio will continue to grow, but there should be platforms designed entirely for sharing carefully compiled and curated tracks with friends.
While platforms like Pandora and Last FM are dominated by more hardcore fans of music, sites such as Turntable FM (above) which combine gaming and social networking could bring together new audiences. In short, personalised radio platforms could appeal to the entire music-buying community, by offering the chance to discover and customise in easy ways.
More sophisticated music discovery and curation
Music discovery apps, including BAMMs, will become ever more complex and vital to get through the sheer volume of material online. The FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome is the web’s newest disease, and the best way to tackle it is to call in the curators. Music discovery apps will not only select the best material, they will also order it for you, so that you don’t have to wade through numerous disorganised links.
Apps will have to be able to configure music in different ways – for example, adopting mood-based curation as well as genre and decade. They could also take the place of traditional tastemakers such as magazine websites. Expect a lot of morphing between the two formats.
The rise and rise of video
Despite Youtube’s success, few media outlets have really gone for exclusive video. This could change massively in 2013 with predictions from Cisco that video will grow to drive 80 per cent of traffic across the internet. Music will play a major part of this, given that most songs neatly fit the three to four minute limit for a standard online video. Services like XBox Music (below) have also made playing music, watching video and gaming on one device manageable for even the biggest technophobe.
No barriers cosmopolitan music trends
Gangnam Style (below) has become the most popular Youtube video ever uploaded (please let’s not talk about Ai Wei Wei and the Anish Kapoor versions). While Psy has been dismissed as unrepresentative of Korean music or a novelty act, the music has actually seen a wave of interest in non-Western pop.
More specialised crowdfunding
There are already dedicated music crowdfunding platforms, but none which specialise in concert funding yet. Touring is still a tried and trusted way to build up a fanbase. The ideal platform could enable networks of fans to chip in together to bring musicians over, making more bands perform off the traditional tour route.
Outlier trends: The hologram trend
The biggest comeback of 2012 was also the least expected. Tupac appeared at last year’s Coachella, giving rap a genuinely hair-raising edge. The most astonishing thing was that the company Digital Domain Media Group animated the entire performance, rather than pulling it from an archive. Could this be the beginnings of a niche industry, devoted to reanimating and choreographing holograms for old fans and newcomers? You can’t buy charisma but you sure as hell can try to project it.
Tupac (above) was an obvious candidate for revival – in fact, the hologram (when first spoken about) appeared to be a smart joke about the fact that the late rapper sold more after his death than he did before it. The music industry is pretty unconscionable when it comes to making money off the back of its deceased stars, so who knows how far the trend will go?
The deluxe album
The trend for artisan goods shows no sign of abating. Like the similar trend for slow food and slow living, the deluxe album signals leisure time. The box set used to be something to buy the fangirl or fanboy in your life for Christmas. Now almost every physical release aims to be special, limited and good enough to put on your minimalist bookshelves. The physical album has almost become a statement. Beck released his album ‘Song Reader’ as sheet-music only (above) , reminding us that the format is only a vessel for the real work.